Involving a serious change in the Weller family, and the untimely downfall of the red-nosed Mr. Stiggins
CONSIDERING it a matter of delicacy to abstain from introducing either Bob Sawyer or Ben Allen to the young couple, until they were fully prepared to expect them, and wishing to spare Arabella's feelings as much as possible, Mr. Pickwick proposed that he and Sam should alight in the neighbourhood of the George and Vulture, and that the two young men should for the present take up their quarters elsewhere. To this, they very readily agreed, and the proposition was accordingly acted upon; Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer betaking themselves to a sequestered pot-shop on the remotest confines of the Borough, behind the bar-door of which their names had in other days very often appeared, at the head of long and complex calculations worked in white chalk.
"Dear me, Mr. Weller," said the pretty housemaid, meeting Sam at the door.
"Dear me I vish it vos, my dear," replied Sam, dropping behind, to let his master get out of hearing. "Wot a sweet lookin' creetur you are, Mary!"
"Lor', Mr. Weller, what nonsense you do talk!" said Mary. "Oh! don't, Mr. Weller."
"Don't what, my dear?" said Sam.
"Why, that," replied the pretty housemaid. "Lor', do get along with you." Thus admonishing him, the pretty housemaid pushed Sam against the wall, declaring that he had tumbled her cap, and put her hair quite out of curl.
"And prevented what I was going to say, besides," added Mary. "There's a letter been waiting here for you four days; you hadn't been gone away, half an hour, when it came; and more than that, it's got, immediate, on the outside."
"Vere is it, my love?" inquired Sam.
"I took care of it, for you, or I daresay it would have been lost long before this," replied Mary. "There, take it; it's more than you deserve."
With these words, after many pretty little coquettish doubts and fears, and wishes that she might not have lost it, Mary produced the letter from behind the nicest little muslin tucker possible, and handed it to Sam, who thereupon kissed it with much gallantry and devotion.
"My goodness me!" said Mary, adjusting the tucker, and feigning unconsciousness, "you seem to have grown very fond of it all at once."
To this Mr. Weller only replied by a wink, the intense meaning of which no description could convey the faintest idea of; and, sitting himself down beside Mary on a window-seat, opened the letter and glanced at the contents.
"Hallo!" exclaimed Sam, "wot's all this?"
"Nothing the matter, I hope?" said Mary, peeping over his shoulder.
"Bless them eyes o' yourn!" said Sam, looking up.
"Never mind my eyes; you had much better read your letter," said the pretty housemaid; and as she said so, she made the eyes twinkle with such slyness and beauty that they were perfectly irresistible.
Sam refreshed himself with a kiss, and read as follows:
"My dear Sammle,
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